Quick hits (part I)

1) Really, really informative piece on Wahhabism, it’s history, and how it shapes life (dramatically for the worse) in Saudi Arabia.

2) John Judis on the lasting impact of Bernie:

What Sanders was advocating — beyond the specifics — was strengthening and broadening social security in the broadest sense of the word so that even as Americans are tossed to and fro in the information economy, they can feel a certain sense of security — one that is currently lacking for many, many people in this country.

Sanders’ support for these kind of political demands may set the Democrats eventually on a more visionary and inspiring course – one that isn’t bounded by the shadow of Republican congressional dominance and the business campaign funding that has narrowed the Democratic vision for thirty years or more. That’s really the message behind Sanders’ call for a “political revolution.”

I know some sophisticates find this call laughable, but I think many young voters understood what Sanders was saying: that the only way to overcome the oligarchic, plutocratic tilt of our political system is by the massive, determined participation in politics of those determined to change it. Sanders’ campaign may, of course, become a footnote in political histories, a curiosity in a trivia question like Fred Harris’s 1972 campaign, but I have a feeling it will survive his defeat. At least I hope it will.

3a) Pretty cool interactive feature to see how a social media feed looks for conservatives compared to liberals.

3b) Speaking of which, really nice essay in the Guardian on “how technology disrupted the truth.”

4) Not sure I’ve ever seen a craze blow up as quickly as Pokemon Go (and yes, I have it).  Nice Wired piece on the technology.

5) New study on the gender pay gap for physicians.  Hard not to conclude that a significant portion of good old fashioned sex discrimination.

6) Really good Tom Edsall on Trump and the anti-PC vote from last month.  Here’s the section where he interviews John Haidt:

Jonathan Haidt, a professor at N.Y.U., suggested to me that one way to better understand the intensity of Trump’s appeal is by looking at something called “psychological reactance.” Haidt describes reactance as

the feeling you get when people try to stop you from doing something you’ve been doing, and you perceive that they have no right or justification for stopping you. So you redouble your efforts and do it even more, just to show that you don’t accept their domination. Men in particular are concerned to show that they do not accept domination.

The theory, first developed in 1966 by Jack W. Brehm in “A Theory of Psychological Reactance,” is directly relevant to the 2016 election, according to Haidt. Here is Brehm’s original language:

Psychological reactance is an aversive affective reaction in response to regulations or impositions that impinge on freedom and autonomy. This reaction is especially common when individuals feel obliged to adopt a particular opinion or engage in a specific behavior. Specifically, a perceived diminution in freedom ignites an emotional state, called psychological reactance, that elicits behaviors intended to restore this autonomy.

Haidt applies this to the 2016 election:

Translated to the Trump phenomenon, I would say that decades of political correctness, with its focus on “straight white men” as the villains and oppressors — now extended to “straight white cis-gendered men” — has caused some degree of reactance in many and perhaps most white men.

In both the workplace and academia, Haidt argues,

the accusatory and vindictive approach of many social justice activists and diversity trainers may actually have increased the desire and willingness of some white men to say and do un-PC things.

In this atmosphere, according to Haidt,

Trump comes along and punches political correctness in the face. Anyone feeling some degree of anti-PC reactance is going to feel a thrill in their heart, and will want to stand up and applaud. And because feelings drive reasoning, these feelings of gratitude will make it hard for anyone to present arguments to them about the downsides of a Trump presidency.

Trump’s anger at being policed or fenced in apparently speaks to the resentment of many American men and their resistance to being instructed, particularly by a female candidate, on how they should think, speak or behave.

7) I keep meaning to write a post about how we’ve been apparently getting it wrong on Telomeres.  Not going to happen, so quick hits it is.

8) The ethics of sex robots.

9) Yes, we absolutely need more investment in public pre-K.  Alas, we still don’t have as good an understanding as we’d like about what really works in these programs.

10) How come we cannot really remember anything from before we were 3 1/2?

11) The Tea party nuts in Kansas are now railing against “government schools.”  Ugh.  As always with this nuttiness, I worry how long until our Republicans in the NC legislature decide it’s a good idea.

12) Evan Osnos on the NRA, anti-government rhetoric, and race:

For critics of the N.R.A., it was an awkward exposure of what is usually left unsaid: the organization is far less active in asserting the Second Amendment rights of black Americans than of white ones…

The Dallas ambush has also exposed an uncomfortable fact for the gun-rights movement: for decades, even as it maintains its abstract tributes to law enforcement, it has embraced a strain of insurrectionist rhetoric, overtly anti-government activism that endorses the notion that civilians should have guns for use against American police and military. In a 1995 fund-raising letter, the executive vice-president of the N.R.A., Wayne LaPierre, called federal law-enforcement agents “jack-booted thugs,” and suggested that “in Clinton’s administration, if you have a badge, you have the government’s go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens.” In Texas, where the police ambush occurred, an open-carry advocate last year urged the killing of state legislators if they do not approve a more relaxed policy. (“They better start giving us our rights or this peaceful non-cooperation stuff is gonna be gamed up . . . We should be demanding [Texas legislators] give us our rights back, or it’s punishable by death. Treason.”) At the annual N.R.A. convention last year, the board member Ted Nugent said, “Our government has turned on us.” Stopping short of calling for violence, he urged members to focus their ire on “the bad and the ugly.” He said, “It’s a target-rich environment. If it was duck season, there’d be so many ducks, you could just close your eyes and shoot ’em.”

13) Using computers to analyze the emotional arcs of stories.

14) This is pretty great– best goals of 2016 so far.

15) Sure, I use safety pins in my bib when I run in a race. I had no idea that the elites still did this.  Or that bibs are just there for sponsors now.

16) Fighting back against modern debtor’s prison.  I would love to see this win:

A suit filed July 6 against the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles alleges the DMV indefinitely suspends driver’s licenses of those too poor to pay fines and court costs in an “unconstitutional scheme.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their licenses simply because they are too poor to pay, effectively depriving them of reliable, lawful transportation necessary to get to and from work, take children to school, keep medical appointments, care for ill or disabled family members, or, paradoxically, to meet their financial obligations to the courts,” reads the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Western Virginia.

The suit, filed by the Legal Aid Justice Center, which represents low-income Virginians, says more than 940,000 people in Virginia currently have their licenses suspended for nonpayment.

According to the Legal Aid Justice Center, the suspension of driver’s licenses for nonpayment can prevent people from keeping or obtaining jobs, leading to a vicious cycle of additional fines, unemployment and, sometimes, incarceration. The suit says more than one-third of suspensions for failure to pay are related to convictions unrelated to motor vehicles.

17) I’ve been slacking off with the high-intensity interval training of late (it’s hard; I’m lazy), so how nice to read this study in the NYT that (admittedly, based on rats) suggests that good old-fashioned moderate-paced jogging may be the best for your brain:

Those rats that had jogged on wheels showed robust levels of neurogenesis. Their hippocampal tissue teemed with new neurons, far more than in the brains of the sedentary animals. The greater the distance that a runner had covered during the experiment, the more new cells its brain now contained.

There were far fewer new neurons in the brains of the animals that had completed high-intensity interval training. They showed somewhat higher amounts than in the sedentary animals but far less than in the distance runners.

And the weight-training rats, although they were much stronger at the end of the experiment than they had been at the start, showed no discernible augmentation of neurogenesis. Their hippocampal tissue looked just like that of the animals that had not exercised at all.

Obviously, rats are not people. But the implications of these findings are provocative. They suggest, said Miriam Nokia, a research fellow at the University of Jyvaskyla who led the study, that “sustained aerobic exercise might be most beneficial for brain health also in humans.”

18) Okay, I still need to fully read this, but, sadly, I’m not at all surprised that a disturbingly inaccurate $2 drug test is regularly sending people to prison.

19) What we can learn from the Nordic countries:

Lakey: A lot of people mistakenly believe that the countries with Viking ancestry—Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland—have always had the high standard of living that they do today. That’s not the case, and people don’t realize what it took to create the kind of society we see today in each of these countries.

A century ago, the economic elite ran each of those countries. There was the pretense of democracy, but it was always the decisions of economic elites that carried the day. There was poverty and a lack of empowerment of the people. The change that came about in the Nordic countries so that they eventually moved to an economic model where there was less of a wealth gap, and better quality of life, came about after everyday people made demands on their governments to change.

The 1 percent may occupy state power, but when the majority of the country stands up in opposition to the 1 percent, they can make the country ungovernable. That’s what happened in Nordic countries, and that’s what opened up the political space in which they could build an economic model that far outperforms the economic model of the United States.

20) So, just when are you an adult?  I recently went to Old Salem— a recreation of a historic 19th century Moravian town.  They talked about all the children leaving home at 15 and essentially assuming adult responsibilities.  The person I talked to was all like, “well, it was just different back then.”  My thinking, well, sure, it was, but I’m pretty sure the human brain did not mature any faster in 19th century North Carolina.  And, these kids may have taken many an adult responsibility, but they sure didn’t have an adult brain.

21) Great NYT piece on Trump dividing the country by race.  And Greg Sargent’s take on it.

22) Jay Rosen (as smart an observer of the media as there is) on how Trump takes advantage of journalistic norms.

23) I’ve got no use for the Gladwell haters.  Gladwell is awesome and so is his new podcast series.  This recent episode about college as engines of social mobility (or not) is especially good).

 

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

3 Responses to Quick hits (part I)

  1. Jon K says:

    18) I read the piece when it came out, and it is more than disturbing. They use the results of the field tests to coerce people to plead guilty. Once they plead guilty, in most cases, that means that no lab testing is done to verify that the substance is actually illegal. They profiled a woman who had her life ruined over a food crumb and headache powder. She got a felony conviction, a couple months in jail, lost her job, and couldn’t find any work better than minimum wage due to her felony drug conviction.

    The article points out that these tests have false positive results 35-45% of the time. How can that be considered evidence of anything? Bottom line take away is to never plead guilty when presented with one of these tests as the only evidence. You have a right to have a real test done in a lab.

  2. itchy says:

    6. I totally buy this. It’s not the only explanation of behavior, but it seems completely plausible.

    7. sciencebasedmedicine.org is a great site.

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